How did I find myself sideways on this horse? I mean, I started off on top, but progressively tilted left…. left… left down…. left over…. then sllliiiddeee….. now I’m kinda hanging, head teetering towards the ground.
Thank God this was a goofy, aloof, gentle beast. Cozzie was her name, and she was a silly Appaloosa. Have you ever seen an Appaloosa? They are really funny looking. Or at least Cozzie was. She had this silly Mohawk instead of a majestic flowing mane like you see on Google images. She had big freaked-out looking blue eyes, was dappled gray, and I seem to remember her having a short neck and a big butt.
Anyway, she was so gentle that I couldn’t even get her to walk. She used to do this wonky head-bobbing thing where she’d bob her head up and down swiftly about twelve times in a row. I’m not really sure what that meant but it was funny to watch. She had such a sweet demeanor that sliding sideways down her belly was a super safe accident. This was the very first time I had ever been on a horse. The number one thing you need when riding is balance, and I obviously had a lot of work to do.
Losing my balance didn’t bother me one bit that day.
My whole life was out of balance anyway. I was in a place where no parent ever wants their young teen to be. My oppressive boyfriend filled in all the gaps that remained from a sister that hated me, a mom that spent most of her time working and studying in college, and a dad who worked rotating shifts. Dad slept during the daylight hours so he could work graveyard to keep the bills paid and food on the table. The only hobby I had was this boy, and the only other interest I had in the world was horseback riding.
I had followed my best friend into this riding endeavor, since I always wanted to do what she was doing. I longed to own the toys she owned, I loved the music she loved, and I tried my best to be exactly like her. She was not a particularly good role model to have, in addition to this lousy boy, but she was what I had. So, after begging and begging my parents to allow me, I got to go with her and receive my very first riding lesson.
This horse farm became my world.
Woodridge Arabians wasn’t a farm comprised of majestic one hundred acres of rolling green fields and beautiful red barns. This was approximately a seven-acre patch of dirt with a small pond. This farm sat wedged between brick ranch houses, a church parking lot, and teeny tiny little cracker box shanties. There were about nine horses on this small property, several goats, and numerous ducks.
For me and my best friend to be able to afford to ride there, we had to work the farm. We spent hours on end, in the cold and in the sweltering summer heat, cleaning stalls and tack, feeding, grooming, painting the barn and the house and the garage, shoveling wood chips. And these horses were not all like Cozzie. This was really an Arabian farm, hot blooded, spirited Arabians; not a breed that you’d want your novice rider to learn on. On top of that, Shaw and Jordan were abused by their former owner, Brandy was a big-balled, frightening stallion, Shaka was an untrained foal, and Shebah was a crazy, wild colt, and both young horses were much too old to be green.
As I learned to ride, I progressed through all the rideable horses.
After Cozzie, the gentlest, I graduated to Mary, the tiny, cantankerous Shetland pony. She kicked me in the head a few times while I was cleaning her feet. And every time I rode her, she just bucked and bucked. She hated that I was on her back. Thank goodness I had learned by then how to properly cinch her girth.
It annoys horses to have the belly belts tightened on them and will puff up their lungs when you buckle the girth around them. So it’s good practice to, before mounting, tighten each side a couple more notches, because, by then, they would have walked a few steps and released the excess air in their lungs.
After earning my bruises from Mary, I would then shift to Goldenlady, and old white mare. She was fine from what I remember, simply ancient and didn’t need too much stress in her life, just a bit of exercise sometimes.
But after that I would connect with my love, my joy, my horse Shaw.
His show name was Fanfare Whimsey. He was Fanfare Montego’s brother, nicknamed Jordan, and my best friend’s horse. How cool is that?! Best friends riding almost identical brothers! Wow! Shaw and Jordan were just barely horses. They measured just over fourteen hands; that’s four inches per hand and translated to not quite six feet tall. Shaw is and always will hold a special place in my heart. We went to so many horse shows together and he brought so much adventure to my world. Having been an abused animal, he was afraid of water and garden hoses. Add these fears to a hot-blooded Arabian and you get a big ol basket of trouble.
We, from Woodridge Arabians, would attend horse shows and our most favorite event was the 4-H show at the State Fair of Virginia. We would travel with our horses in tow and camp out in the fairground parking lot in the City of Richmond for a full week. It was always the very first week of school. All week we rode horses and roller coasters, cheered on racing pigs, and devoured loads and loads of fantastic food. But of course, every year, somehow, we hapless kids and our abused horses would scandalize the proper world of horseback riding and fair goers.
………………… to be continued….
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